International Day of Persons With Disabilities by Clive F. Smith, Senior Social Worker, Department of Social Development
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be celebrated all around the world today December 3, 2012. The theme of this year’s commemoration is: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology (ICT), or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. Today we will focus on access as Anguilla’s focus.
One of the ways to prevent persons living with disabilities from participating in daily community activities is by not paying enough attention to what makes a building or public place more accessible to all members of society. Every building that houses an organization or business that is intended to serve the general public should be accessible by all sectors of the society; this includes persons living with disabilities; for instance, those who have to use a wheelchair or who have limited mobility. Making your place of business easily accessible to everyone will benefit both them and you.
As members of our society we all need to face the reality. With the increasing number of young people falling victim to gun related violence and accidents, and the populations of the world faced with the reality that older persons are living longer, more and more people are using wheelchairs than ever before, and access can be a major issue for them if there are no ramps, if there are no specially designed parking spaces, if hallways are too narrow and if there are no bathroom facilities that they can easily use, to name a few possible barriers to access.
Whether or not Anguilla’s stage of development has reached where we have building code inspectors pushing us to make necessary changes, we should make these changes as soon as possible. Not only is it the right thing to do and the right time to do it, to avoid discriminating against those with mobility issues, but it can help your place of business succeed by being a place that’s accessible to everyone. Be among the first on the island to boast that your business is disability certified.
Making a business wheelchair accessible isn’t always easy. The architecture of the building alone can present major challenges. But positive ground can be covered by simply adding a wheelchair ramp to improve access. While portable ramps and folding ramps are great for people to use at home, businesses should invest in a permanent ramp that’s secure, stable and convenient to use.
It is far better to add the ramp in addition to stairs, rather than to cover the stairs with it as a home user might. There are people who are not comfortable walking on slopes and that includes some people with mobility issues. Many people who use canes, for instance, would prefer a few steps rather than a slope that makes them feel unsteady. So a ramp in addition to stairs is a great solution for a very small set of steps.
In areas where there are many stairs leading to an additional floor, a vertical lift can be added for a wheelchair to be lifted and lowered easily. A vertical platform lift serves as an elevator. Lifts can cost from about $5,000 and up, but they’ll allow people in wheelchairs access to the building and the ability to get to all floors inside where lifts are installed. Remember, improving access is good for business.
The alternative is either limited or no access for people with disabilities, or expensive renovations that will cost many times the price of a lift. While the lift can be installed very quickly, the renovations that would lead to improve access can take weeks or longer. So consider a vertical platform lift for your business to save time and money, to increase business and to respect all of your potential customers.
So today, December 3, 2012, as we join the rest of the world in the commemoration of The International Day of Persons with Disabilities under the theme: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all” remember improving access is not just the right thing to do and the right time to do it, it will also benefit your business.
(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)